ONE of Scotland's most senior women working in the prison system has been honoured for her work to the service.

Kate Donegan, head of the Scottish Prison Service's women's project, was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to the criminal justice system.

The mother-of-two has also worked at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, and Glenochil, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire as well as at the prisons' inspectorate.

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She became a high profile figure in the mid 1990s when she took up the post of governor of Cornton Vale Prison, Stirling, after the jail was rocked by a spate of suicides among young inmates.

She had previously been deputy governor of the jail for seven years in the 1970s and 1980s.

When she took up the post as governor in 1996 Clive Fairweather, Scotland's former chief inspector prisons, predicted her arrival would be a "turning point".

She immediately set about introducing a compassionate ethos in the institution which at the time had been nicknamed "Vale of Death".

"I never cease to be amazed at the condition of the women due to drug abuse," she told the Herald in an interview in 2001.

She was also outspoken about the number of women being jailed for non-violent offences.

She told the Herald in the same interview: "My view is that prison is for women who commit violent crime and who present a danger to the public. The position at Cornton Vale is that the majority of our population are substance-abusers, self-harmers and women with social problems."